Charles Whiten Sanderson (1906-1990): Researching Writing Lives.

Participating in the ‘Writing Lives’ module was an exciting and apprehensive choice for me, although I was excited to improve my social media skills and my writing skills on WordPress, I was still unsure about how well I would execute my research and weekly blog posts, however, I had nothing to worry about!

The cover of Charles Sanderson’s memoir.

Researching and writing about a working-class autobiography has been nothing short of spectacular. I researched the memoir ‘Half a Lifetime In The 20th Century’ by Charles Whiten Sanderson, born in Sutton-in-Ashfield on 23 December 1906. Charles’s memoir brings to light the experience of growing up in close communities and war in rural Britain, an eye-opening read for myself. The more I invested emotionally and academically into Charles’ memoir, the more enjoyable my research became.

When Helen Rogers first asked us to sit down and choose our authors by sampling their biographical entries, I did not expect to immediately connect the way I did with Charles’s memoir- but it happened! At 120 pages long, the memoir was a pleasure to read. From the first page Charles had marvellous and magnificent memories to bestow and these memories continued right until the end. The further I read into Charles’s memoir, the more interested I became in the lifestyle working-class families had in the early 1900s, from childhood games, festivals, war and a family of his own. Charles and his memoir allowed me to engross myself in early 20th century life.

Researching the life and writing of Charles educated me greatly about life in rural areas. Not being from Nottinghamshire myself, it was interesting to read and research about the working-class life of a man not only nearly a century older than me but who lived only an hour or so away from my own hometown. Finding substantial research about Charles proved difficult in the beginning as I could not find him on the 1911 census. However, I eventually found the Sanderson family with a young Charles Whiter Sanderson, revealing Charles’s middle name had been spelt wrong on the document. After this blip, I was able to find out the name of his parents and the address of the house he was born in in Sutton-in-Ashfield!

Charles has given me the closest experiences to life in the 20th century, growing up in WWI and serving in WWII and endless of topics to research and write about. Writing about these subjects and the fantastic childhood he experienced in my Fun and Festivities post, it has been an honour to share these memories with others. By taking part in a collaborative research project, I have been able to share the joy and accomplishments that Charles achieved in his life.

The Writing Lives project has taught me vast knowledge about researching, writing and most importantly blogging! Only briefly experiencing blogging last year in the ‘Social Media’ module, participating in Writing Lives has allowed my writing and blogging skills to flourish. By using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, I was able to contact my peers efficiently and professionally. Creating a Facebook group enabled me to contact members of my group to arrange proof reading and I felt like this was a positive method of support on the module!

Twitter of course, was my most vital method of promoting my author blog on social media. As the Writing Lives (collaborative research project) has a popular following on Twitter, it was exciting to become apart of such a well-known project! Twitter has made it easily accessible to read and respond to the work of my peers and it has been inspiring to witness others as well as myself receive praise and recognition for their hard work. By sharing my work, I received overwhelming support from my peers as well as constant support from Twitter accounts such as @histchild. It has made getting involved with social media an enlightening and elevating element of the module.

Participating in the Writing Lives project has been an invigorating experience in my English undergraduate degree and the vital skills I have developed will help me to pursue my career in writing and publishing. As the module draws to a close, this project has helped me to build confidence when publishing my writing and I am proud with the work I have produced, and I hope that those who read my blog in the future feel the same admiration for Charles and his family as I did.

Bibliography & Images.

Sanderson, Charles Whiten. ‘Half a Lifetime in the 20th Century’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. University of Brunel Library. Special Collections. 2:688.

2:688 SANDERSON, Charles Whiten, ‘Half a Lifetime in the 20th Century: A Book of Memoirs’, TS, pp.115 (c.78,000 words). Extracts published in Mansfield and North Nottinghamshire Chronicle Advertiser (Chad), 13 March – 31 July 1980 (Sutton-in-Ashfield Library). Brunel University Library.

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